Though it’s enticing to pack a variety of outfits, shoes and grooming products for a vacation, a checked bag could ruin your trip–and not just because checked bags sometimes get lost by the airline. Here are six reasons why you should forego that pretty party dress and extra pair of heels in favor of packing light and traveling with a carry on — only and always.

Packing light is the key to being able to travel light with just a carry on bag.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Committing to the Carry On

I almost never deviate from carry-on luggage. Black dress, black pants, a few shirts and two pairs of shoes. That is, unless I am headed to France. Somehow, visions of swanky evenings in the City of Light trump my instincts and inform flagrant overpacking. Though my brain screams “non!” my heart convincingly argues to add that extra dress, a leather jacket, a metallic clutch, sleek heels. I mean, it’s Paris!

So, a few months ago, when I was combining a river cruise in Provence with a stopover in Paris, I found myself reluctantly checking a bag.

As luck would have it, my flight to Lyon was cancelled. Since I had checked a bag, I had zero flexibility to switch airlines. I had to wait for 6 hours at O’Hare, endure a chaotic rebooking, miss my connection in Madrid and miss an entire day of the cruise.

The final indignity? Iberia lost my suitcase.

Packing tips from dads.

Photo from Pixabay.

Packing Light Rocks

So, I had to then deal with baggage claim fiascos and emergency shopping, two major time and energy drains. The suitcase was delivered three days later.

Even then,  it continued to dog me. When stuffed with the additional purchases, the bag become more unwieldy, especially on the narrow steps of the TGV train, where I had to lug it up and down flights of stairs (porters in France? Nonexistent). It was a drag, literally. This trip taught me a lesson: overpacking is a hassle. Even for a week in Europe, it’s better to travel light and buy things once you are there.

Here are 6 reasons that you should commit to packing light and traveling with a carry on only.

Packing light is the key to being able to travel light with only a carry on.

Hopefully Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will expand airports they serve resulting in more choices for families. Photo Credit: Nasreen Stump


If your flight is cancelled, you can’t simply switch airlines if you have a checked bag. Well, you can. But, if you do, your bag stays on the original carrier. So, there is a risk that your luggage will end up in that baggage claim in the sky. You have to wait it out (this means 500 passengers in line for three hours waiting to be assisted by the two frazzled women manning the desk) and hope that your flight is rescheduled. In either case, your luggage may still be lost as mine was even though the American Airlines priority desk ( a One World partner) assured me that it had been transferred to the new plane.


When connecting, there is always the chance that your checked bag could be lost. As noted above, this is a serious nuisance. Not only do you have to follow up with the airline every hour on the hour, you also have to waste time buying underwear, toothbrush and clothing to get you through until your bag (hopefully) shows up. Don’t get me started on the time spent ruminating on exactly what was in the bag and how I could replace it (Take a picture of the contents of the bag). Then, after the trip, you’ll need to fill out the airline’s paperwork in order to be reimbursed.


Taking a train (I was on the TGV) with a huge suitcase (especially when traveling internationally)  is a liability. I had bruises for a month where my suitcase whacked into my shins as I dragged it from car to car.


Taxis in Europe  are smaller than the US. Many can’t accommodate a big bag. So, you’ll need to figure out an alternate plan (car service or Uber) to get from airport or train station to your lodgings.

Packing light and using a carry on means you can skip the wait at baggage claim.

Packing light and using a carry on means you can skip the wait at baggage claim. Photo credit: Pixabay


Waiting for the bag on both sides of the journey just takes time away from travel.


Did you really need that extra pair of heels? Three scarves? Challenge yourself to scale everything down. Bring multi-tasking items of clothing that can be dressed up and down. For a ten day trip, pack for 5 days and plan to do laundry. And hey, you can always go shopping.

How to Maximize your Carry On:

  • Eagle Creek “compression” packing cubes
  • Beauty/grooming minis
  • Dress-it-up jewelry (bangles, necklace, long earrings)
  • A goes-with-everything black dress
  • A colorful scarf that can double as a shawlark denim jeans that can be dressed up and down
  • Easy- to -wear black boots that can go from day to night.

Are you a committed over packer? Here are 6 compelling reason why you should change you ways, start packing light and traveling with only a carry on bag. You can do it! Really.

About the author

This post was written by Amy Tara Koch. She is an author, journalist and television personality. Koch contributes to Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Travel + Leisure, Men’s Journal and Food & Wine. She has appeared on Today, Access Hollywood, Fox & Friends, CBS Early Show and Steve Harvey. Her first book, BUMP IT UP (2010) has retained its position as the gold standard in pregnancy style. She is currently working on her second book, a memoir.

Among her recent posts for Travel + Leisure:

10 Essential Hacks for Traveling with Small Kids

The Best Cruise Lines for Families

How to Plan a Family Trip to Hawaii